By Bethany Lockhart
Teacher, California


I'm always thinking about what I need to teach and how to structure my lesson to best support my students.

Until recently, I’d been trying to do this all from scratch, which led to lots of sleepless nights not to mention hours and hours of searching the internet for quality materials to support my instruction.

Recently it hit me: I don't need to create lessons every day in order to support the students in my classroom!

Instead, by knowing the materials in my classroom and understanding my students through formative assessments, I can make adjustments and tweaks to existing resources and best serve my kids without having to recreate the wheel. 

By exploring the data and the lessons and units in our curriculum, I can see which standards and skills I need my students to learn.

My sleepless nights should not be in vain! And so I’d love to share 5 tips on how to get to know the materials in your classroom (and why it’s worth your time):

  1. Work Together. Building a shared understanding of the lessons and units in our curriculum helps my co-teacher and me to see which standards and skills we need our students to learn.
  2. Analyze the Numbers. Learn about your the students through good assessment practice including data collection. (Where are we? What does the data tell me? How will I respond to the evidence?) When I take the time to collect and review data – even if it’s only on a specific point or two – my next day and next week of instruction is richer and connects more directly to student needs.
  3. Set Goals and a Timeline. By looking at the data we were able to set goals, adjust the lessons to meet these goals, improve lessons to meet these standards, and develop look fors. Having a timeline ensures a sense of urgency and accountability.
  4. Determine Success Criteria. How will I know we met the goal? What does meeting the goal mean for me as a teacher and for my students as learners?
  5. Plan Instructional Strategies and Adjust Curriculum to Meet your Goals. Curriculum isn’t fixed and neither are the materials that support it, but ensuring your instructional strategies and the standards your students need to master are aligned is key to student success.

Bethany teaches kindergarten and is a California Core Advocate and a reviewer for EdReports.